The movie adaptation of ?Percy Jackson? is accessible and action-packed; just don?t expect it to be anything like the book
IF THERE?S ONE THING THE Greeks are good at, it?s telling a story?and there is a lot of story crammed into ?Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,? Chris Columbus? revisionist adaptation of Rick Riordan?s best-selling novel updating Greek mythology.

It?s a very post-modern hero?s tale. The troubled teenager Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) discovers he is the son of Poseidon and is accused of stealing Zeus? lightning bolt. Accompanied by fellow demigod Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) and the satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), he embarks on a quest to find and return the bolt before the gods go to war and destroy our world, encountering legendary creatures?Minotaur, Hydra, Hellhound, oh, my?across landscapes both real and mythical.

Diehard fans of the book will be immensely disappointed: Columbus and screenwriter Craig Titley take a broadsword to Riordan?s novel; the film is so different it sometimes feels like it?s based on another book altogether. Percy is five years older. The main roles have been heavily modified. Not only has the original plot altered significantly, characters and subplots have gone missing (Where have you gone, Ares?). Whatever is left has been condensed heavily.

What Columbus summons is a surprisingly straightforward, efficient piece of entertainment. From start to end, ?The Lightning Thief? hurtles forward relentlessly in a wave of exposition and setup. Characters are constantly and breathlessly explaining everything that happens, along with helpful zooms. Because of this, much of ?The Lightning Thief? inescapably feels a little like ?Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone? in a shiny American setting, but this is more because of Columbus than Potter. Columbus tries to make as mainstream a movie as he can?but this time curiously without the slavish faithfulness he displayed in the first two Potter films.

Even with the movie?s heavyweight cast, ?The Lightning Thief? is primarily dedicated to its titular protagonist. The telegenic Lerman tackles the hero?s role gamely; he resembles a younger Zac Efron and appears in nearly every scene. Jackson gets the best lines in an unexpectedly energetic turn as Grover. Daddario is pretty and well-lit, but doesn?t have much to do. ?The Lightning Thief? benefits from campy, broad turns by the likes of Uma Thurman as a fashionable Medusa and Steve Coogan as a goofy Hades. As Poseidon, Kevin McKidd gets to alternately glower with Sean Bean?s Zeus and play supernatural long-lost dad.

?The Lightning Thief? is a Pandora?s Box of fun. Columbus has packed the film with one elaborate action scene after another on the road trip literally to hell, but never straying from firmly family-friendly territory. This is your younger sibling?s Percy Jackson. There is a homogenized, by-the-numbers quality to ?The Lightning Thief? that belies the quirkiness that made Riordan?s novel stand out; the novel was much darker and complex.

In that sense, Columbus has succeeded in what he wanted to do because ?The Lightning Thief? is extremely accessible to any audience, even those who have never read Riordan?s book or have a passing familiarity with Greek mythology. It is an obvious introduction to what the studio hopes for would be a new movie franchise. Columbus seems to be concentrating on appealing to a much younger audience than the young adult books.

It is a shame that the film adaptation jettisoned so much of what made the Riordan novel special: Woe unto anyone expecting anything resembling the book. With its nonstop movie momentum and amiable cast, ?The Lightning Thief? is solidly enjoyable popcorn fare for all ages, and in particular a good jumping-on point for young viewers relatively unfamiliar with the widescreen wonders of Greek mythology. After all, those stories remain as powerful today even if in a different form.